Pressure mounting on president to declare a climate emergency

Pressure mounting on president to declare a climate emergency
Image via Gage Skidmore.
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Climate advocates made clear Thursday that they have no intention of dropping their calls for U.S. President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency after Democratic leaders cut a legislative deal with Sen. Joe Manchin that includes tens of billions of dollars in green energy investments.

"The climate doesn't give out prizes for getting 70% of the way there," said Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn, referring to estimates that Senate Democrats' newly proposed bill, if passed, would bring the U.S. significantly closer to meeting Biden's goal of cutting the nation's greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade.

"We still need Biden to declare a climate emergency," Henn added, "and stop approving fossil fuel projects that take us further from that goal."

Climate organizations have responded with alarm to provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that would expand oil and gas drilling and potentially lock in future greenhouse gas emissions, even as it bolsters renewable energy manufacturing, slashes methane pollution, and invests in electric vehicle production.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, noted that the bill's proposed green energy funding is "paltry compared to the $800 billion we spend on our military every year and the trillions needed to solve the climate crisis."

"No matter what," said Hartl, "none of this should deter President Biden from declaring a climate emergency and taking bold executive action to address this crisis."

There's also the possibility of the bill hitting a snag and failing to pass the Senate, where it needs unanimous support from the Democratic caucus. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), a key swing vote, has yet to endorse the legislative text unveiled late Wednesday.

In a statement earlier this month, Biden vowed that "if the Senate will not move to tackle the climate crisis and strengthen our domestic clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to meet this moment."

Days later, The Washington Post reported that Biden was considering the option of declaring a climate emergency, a move that proponents say would unlock key federal authorities and resources needed to accelerate the country's renewable energy transition and slash carbon pollution.

During a press conference on Thursday, the president hailed the Inflation Reduction Act as "the most important investment we've ever made in our energy security" and provided no indication that a climate emergency declaration is forthcoming.

JL Andrepont, senior policy campaigner and policy analyst at 350.org, warned that "the Biden administration, in a desperate need to capitulate to Manchin, is engaging in a bait and switch tactic on climate legislation."

"With these and the many other underhanded gifts to him and the fossil fuel industry, this bill is more of a climate scam bill than a climate change bill," said Andrepont. "How are we supposed to hit our emission reduction targets, be a beacon to the rest of the world, and show that we are committed to addressing climate change if our best efforts are two steps backward?"

"What the world needs now," Andrepont added, "is an unequivocal commitment by those in power to shut down the fossil fuel industry and do everything possible to support the frontline communities who contribute the least to this crisis, but are already suffering the most from it."

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